Reforming social care – a real test for government
What happens next is a key test as to whether the government is serious about fundamental reform to social care, says Age UK.
The dust has settled after the publication of the Dilnot Commission's findings in early July, but now is the time to harness the unique opportunity it represents. The need for change is such that we cannot afford not to act.
As we have seen, the social care system is in crisis: there are two million older people in England with care-related needs, 800,000 of whom receive no formal support from public or private sector agencies. There are an increasing number of people in late old age, yet since 2004 net spending on older peoples' care has risen by just 0.1 per cent in real terms, a total of £43bn. This figure is dwarfed by real spending on the NHS, which has risen by £25bn.
Across the country the local quantity and quality of care for older people varies significantly. Tower Hamlets spends five times as much per older resident as Cornwall, the lowest-spending. We welcome the recommendations of the report, which offers a clear plan for long-term and sustainable reform to social care.
Dilnot's analysis represents a fair, balanced, affordable and reasonable approach to reforming social care. It acknowledges that the current system is underfunded and that better-targeted resources need to be made available.
We support the proposal for a cap on the costs that people incur for care in later life. Under the current system there is a lack of general knowledge about care and how to arrange it. This is a lottery, as people are unable to plan if they do not know what to expect, if and when they require care. Capped liability will also bring certainty to the private sector, allowing insurers and private care home providers to develop products that support customer choice.
The recommendation to raise the threshold on means-testing for those living in care homes, from the current threshold of £23,000 to £100,000, will enable the majority to retain the equity they have built up in their homes. Notably, older people on low incomes will benefit from these changes. These measures will remove the uncertainty that plagues the current system, helping people to plan, invest and save for old age.
Throughout recess, ePolitix.com will be focusing on a different policy theme each week. This week we are featuring articles with a focus on health and social care.
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